On the football field when I was a kid and a teenager, I was fast. Not the fastest, but in the top 10%, I’d say. One of a few hares amongst many other tortoises.
Those days are long gone and, these days, I’m definitely the reverse, a tortoise settled into the comfort of a slow and steady mindset and pace. I think, talk and walk slowly (unless we’re running short on time to catch the last train out of New York City after a Broadway show). Slow enough that I sometimes need to tell myself to pick up the pace. I’m sure I drive New Yorkers crazy.
In a world where speed is celebrated, expected, and in many cases demanded, from just about everyone and with just about everything, being slow can be a distinct disadvantage.
Or not, as I’ve come to find.
It’s not that I don’t love speed myself. I do. I want fast service, fast downloads and fast answers whenever possible. We have internet TV at our new house and buffering can make me crazy, as can Google searches that don’t provide me exactly what I’m looking for on page 1.
But when it comes to building a company, or people, to building a culture or a mission, I believe that more times than not, it’s the turtle, like me, that wins that race over the speedy hare. Not a lot gets made of that in the press and the internet world. Their space is usually reserved to tell the fast stories, the meteoric user stats, the gazelle like sales growth percentages and the quick exits at unicorn valuations. The lottery winner stories are how I’ve heard them described.
But then what happens? A lot of times, the company fizzles out to nothing because there never was a revenue, or worse, profit model or the sale to a big company results in the founders booking out of there as fast as they can while the new owner decides to absorb the business into their established, dissimilar culture and infrastructure only to conclude a few years down the road that it’s not working, and taking a charge to earnings to write down the value of the acquired business to something much closer to zero than the price where it was bought.
Warren Buffet is the most highly regarded slow poke I know about in the world of business. He’s also one of the few that appears to be adored for making decisions at slow, sloth like speeds. I’ve heard him talk about loving businesses that have a big market, great management and a huge moat – meaning they’ve built something that’s hard to duplicate and, therefore, hard to compete with as well. Achieving those things takes time, patience and learning. It usually doesn’t happen in a keystroke.
When I started my business, I told myself that it could become a $50M company in 5 years. I didn’t tell the world that, just me. I’m not sure what I was smoking at the time, but I was obviously thinking about that with something other than my brain.
As I got into it, reality woke me up in a hurry. Getting customers, hiring employees, buying equipment, figuring out how to make money and how to lead the fragile, little start up.
Those things took time, money, education, mistakes. I learned slowly. Nothing ever happened as quickly as I or the hare trapped inside the tortoise me wanted.
Find out how being the tortoise helped Mike create incredible value for his company, employees, and clients… by listening to the rest of this “.5 project” on the How’d It Happen Podcast, where every Tuesday Mike shares a story that relates to his entrepreneur experience starting a business in 1992 and growing it to a $50 million company over 22 years.
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